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Giants’ DeAndre Baker beginning to shed bust label

DeAndre Baker might not have known it at the time, but he arrived at a significant fork in the road about two months ago.

If he had gone one way, he might never have come back. Fortunately for the Giants, Baker went the right way.

It’s a small sample size and there’s no such award, but Baker is on his way to being the unofficial Comeback Rookie of the Year for the Giants.

The 22-year-old rookie cornerback the Giants drafted in the first round with the 30th-overall pick last spring looked like a disaster earlier this season. He struggled to cover receivers, often giving them acres of space to make too many easy catches. And the more Baker failed, the more opposing quarterback threw in his direction.

The burden as an NFL first-round draft pick can be a heavy one. No one knows better than heralded running back Saquon Barkley, whom the Giants chose with the second-overall pick in 2018.

“When you come in as a first-rounder, everyone sets expectations for you and there are expectations that you set for yourself and the kind of player you want to be,’’ Barkley told The Post on Friday. “Bake comes in every single day and works to get better and better. Obviously, he probably didn’t start the season how he would like to start his career. But these last couple weeks, he’s been playing lights out. He was a big reason why we got our first win in a while last week.’’

Baker now has a chance to be a big reason the 3-11 Giants win a second consecutive game Sunday at the 3-11 Redskins.

“Today [Friday] he had a great practice,’’ Barkley said. “If he plays like he practiced today, he’ll probably be the Defensive Player of the Week. His future is bright. I think he can be a star in this league.’’

Two months ago, that statement would have sounded equal parts preposterous and delusional.

Ten games into the season, Pro Football Focus ranked Baker 113th out of 113 cornerbacks. At that time, Baker had allowed an outlandish 149.9 quarterback passer rating and six touchdowns. His signature moment — for all the wrong reasons — came in a loss to the Jets when Baker appeared to be jogging on a play that resulted in a 47-yard Demaryius Thomas reception.

That’s when the heat really turned up on the embattled rookie.

To his credit, Baker, who was being roasted as a first-round bust on social media (where the patience level resides somewhere around zero), did not regress in the face of the heavy criticism.

He, in fact, has gone the other way, improving to the point at which, with the release of veteran Janoris Jenkins before last week’s game, Baker is the Giants No. 1 cornerback now.

He’s coming off perhaps his best game as a pro, breaking up three passes and making five tackles and not allowing Miami’s top receiver, DeVante Parker, to hurt the Giants in a 36-20 win that snapped a nine-game losing streak.

The week before, Baker broke up three of the five passes thrown his way and allowed only a single catch for 7 yards against the Eagles.

Baker has improved so much that Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher recently singled him out in front of all his teammates for his good play.

“I said it in front of the whole defense … he had a really good week of prep and it showed up on game day,’’ Bettcher said.

“I was never frustrated, not once,’’ Baker insisted Friday. “I feel the same since the first day I stepped into this building. It’s just that I’ve been improving, getting better over time with experience and just honing in on everything and getting better results. I’ve never been the type of be down on myself. I just look for ways that I could fix whatever I did wrong.’’

Giants defensive backs coach Everett Withers was asked Friday in what ways Baker has improved from Week 1 to now.

“Every way you can imagine,’’ Withers said. “Preparation-wise, maturity-wise, just understanding how to be a pro. All the things you learn as a young guy that punches you in the face early, he’s starting to understand. He’s not there yet, not close. But he has gotten better as far as attention to detail and fundamentals.

“He’s tackling better, he’s closer to the balls that are thrown at him. Now, let’s take the next step and finishing the plays and have some more production on the ball.’’

Baker’s response to the early struggles?

“Hats off to him for running to it and not running away from it,’’ Withers said.

For taking the right route at that fork in the road.

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